The Nigerian government has failed to investigate the alleged sexual abuse by security forces of thousands of women who have fled Boko Haram jihadists to aid camps around the country, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Amnesty, in a report coinciding with International Women’s Day, reiterated allegations that security forces and emergency workers prevent the refugees from leaving the camps in search of food and basic necessities.
The situation leaves the women vulnerable to harassment and sexual exploitation, the group said.
“We have long documented that women are being made to exchange sex for food and livelihood opportunities by members of the security forces just to survive and feed their children,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
The women are “on the verge of losing hope of ever getting justice,” she said, criticising a lack of investigation of alleged abuses.
Amnesty had already accused the Nigerian army, in a May 2018 report, of sexually abusing civilians in its fight against Boko Haram, raping women and girls in refugee camps in the northeast of the country in exchange for food.
The report titled “They Betrayed Us” was based on more than 250 interviews of women living in aid camps in Borno – the state most affected by the insurgency – with many alleging rape by soldiers.
Thousands of men were arbitrarily detained or disappeared as they fled fighting in late 2015, the report said, with many women unsure whether their husbands and sons were dead or alive.
The army vehemently denied the accusations, and have since described the rights group as an “enemy of Nigeria”.
Nigeria’s parliament vowed to investigate the report’s findings, which documented patterns of rape, starvation and arbitrary detention by military and aid officials in the northeast.
In the statement released Friday, Ojigho said authorities had failed to help detainees’ family members to obtain information on their whereabouts.
“The denial of information to those who approached the military for information has caused mental suffering that constitutes ill-treatment under international human rights law,” she said.
A decade since the start of Boko Haram’s insurgency, much of the besieged northeastern region of Nigeria is still in crisis, with some 1.8 million people displaced and reliant on food and humanitarian assistance.
The conflict has claimed at least 27 000 lives.